Let’s say you are tasked with looking for software and in your research, you find freeware. It is very tempting – most of us will at least take a look. After all, why would we buy software we can get for free?
Or perhaps you begin by searching for a solid solution that will meet all of your needs, but your budget is lean and you begin looking at scaled down or free solutions that may be available. You think it may be ‘good enough’ to get you by for now, and you can purchase something better at a later date when finances improve.
While this is tempting, one must consider the hidden costs of free software. In the end, you may be spending more for a ‘free’ version, than a well-built affordable solution.
Here are some thoughts factors when considering freeware
- Many freeware solutions are not actually free. Vital components needed to use the software are additional – sometimes the components are minutely priced, but when you calculate in your volume requirements the prices really add up.
- Does it fit your needs? With freeware there is no product specialist to guide you through your selection, so you are forced to figure out on your own if it will meet your needs. Once implemented you may learn that it does not meet needs after all or particular parts do not work the way you need them to. Time lost in business is money lost.
- You are on your own. Typically freeware does not include any implementation assistance, training or support. You may have access to a forum, but no one to answer questions or help you with your system environment.
- No training is provided. How will your employees learn how to use the new software? There are no best practices to follow, and you are left to learn on your own. In addition to time lost, often mistakes are made along the way that is hard to correct because so much has been done already “the wrong way”. Again, time lost.
- Is it cross user-friendly? Some companies may have an employee smart enough to configure a freeware to meet their needs. Once this employee moves on new folks can’t figure out how to make it work the same way.
- Will it grow with you? What will you do when your needs change. Will you arrange your business tasks around the app, or be forced to start over? Many hours, weeks, months can be spent implementing a freeware system, processes are built around it, internal training is conducted, resulting in a lot of man-hours and internal costs. Starting over can be very costly. All of the time spent and resources used are now wasted as you look for a solution to replace this “free one”.
So be on guard not to get caught up in the “free” hype, which in the end can cost much more. Take the time to do the due diligence now and select what you need for both now and for the future. Choose a provider that has a quality reputation, offers assistance, provides support, and solutions that are scalable and can grow to meet your needs long term.